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May 29, 2014 / the speech monster

You Make The Difference/幫助孩子學習-您的重要性!

I love the Hanen. I attended the It Takes Two To Talk (ITTT) training last year and thought it was the best continuing ed/professional development I had ever attended. All the Hanen resources available online are so practical and well-written.

My love affair with the organization deepened when someone shared with me recently that a parent resource published by them very early on (circa 1995), titled “You Make The Difference” by Manolson, Ward & Dodington had been translated into Mandarin (and French, Dutch, Spanish, AND adapted for the Native American culture). (Thanks, J!) The book has been really useful especially since I was doing the ITTT training with a Mandarin speaking client’s parents recently (which doesn’t have official Mandarin translated documents), and was able to give them some written resources in their native language (rather than me translating them). The book provides parents with some very simple strategies to “tune in” to their children’s communication, and ways they can follow their child’s lead: simply, all the good ol’ Hanen stuff!

The book is very affordable and therefore parents can also purchase them as an additional resource to other English Hanen books (if parents are able to read both languages). If you’re a parent who is Mandarin speaking and has a young child with a language delay, I highly recommend this book. If you’re in Australia, you can purchase it from Dart Products (AUD21.00).


Speechies, what other Mandarin resources do you have? I would so love to hear about them.

April 9, 2014 / the speech monster

More Mandarin Speech Resources


created in Boardmaker®

This is part 2 to the post sharing some Mandarin speech resources I did back in *gasp!!!!* October 2012. So this took ages to complete but hey, better late than never, right?

I’ve now added all the phonemes present in the Mandarin phonetic inventory. Note that the target sounds are all in syllable initial and word initial positions. I may at some point work on these sounds in the second syllable, word initial positions. I’m also hoping to add diphthongs as a client is about to work on them soon and as there are lots of Mandarin words containing this structure.

I’m a Mac user but because I’ve used Boardmaker® for Windows instead to make these resources, I couldn’t figure out an easy way to add the pinyin (romanized letters) in with the pictures. Those who wish to use these resources will have to rely on Mandarin speakers to help you figure out the pronunciation. Or you can email me and I’m happy to send you the pinyin to the words you wish to use.

The headings below correspond to the pinyin versions of the words, NOT the IPA sounds.

As I spent quite a bit of time on these resources, please give credit where it’s due. Thanks. 🙂












If you wish to get a quick overview of the sound inventory development in Mandarin speaking children, head over to this website: The author of the site, Tao-Yuan Li has done a nice, easy to read summary of Hua & Dodd’s study in 2000 of Mandarin speaking children’s age of acquisition of syllable initial consonant phonemes.



April 5, 2014 / the speech monster

Still here!

A big hello! Especially to those who do stumble upon my page and are wondering if I’m still around in the blogging world. I’m very much here, even though I haven’t posted anything new in the last 10 months. Like so many people, I have been trying to balance everything on my plate and as a result, this blog has had to take a backseat for awhile. I do miss blogging, specifically, writing down my reflections and sharing resources.

Despite my absence, I am amazed that some people still find my blog and some of the posts here have apparently inspired people to look deeper into the profession, try a different resource, or think about volunteering their skills to help others. Thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment or write me to tell me about it.

I am hoping to start blogging regularly again in the next few months, as I go on maternity leave again for the second time. We are so looking forward to meeting our new little baby.

There are also exciting things happening in my little speechie world and hope to share them soon.

May 13, 2013 / the speech monster

Freebies on TesCo

People who are familiar with the UK might be wondering if I’m talking about the multi million British chain store Tesco?

Well, no, but I am going to introduce readers to another British enterprise: this website called TesCo (or, Tes Connect, which stands for Think, Educate, Share, and Connect) with the address: My colleague just shared it with me and it has hundreds and thousands of FREE resources for teachers of general ed classrooms AND special needs. Another GOLDMINE! It claims to be the world’s largest online network of teachers, and has more than 2.5 million registered users (me included!). In addition to being a free resource sharing site, they also produce e-magazine that requires a paid subscription and provide a job search feature.

I was able to easily find SLP related resources by simply searching under “special needs” and “speech and language communication difficulties” which are then further subdivided into “articulation, receptive, expressive” and even “selective mutism.”

Here’s an example of an activity that I found that I will use, about prepositions:


Here’s another one:


All you need is to set up a username and password, and start a downloading frenzy! Let me know if you do try it out and find great resources. Thanks, S, for sharing this with me! 🙂

May 9, 2013 / the speech monster

Want to volunteer? Where to start and what to anticipate.

8639120823_cb954aae13_cSo many people have told me after hearing about my experience volunteering abroad that they’ve “thought about volunteering” at some point or other but just never got a chance to follow it up. Some people don’t know where to start. Some people think it will cost them a lot financially. Many are afraid that language barriers will impede them from making positive contributions or that their skills are lacking.

I thought I’d write this next post on where to start and what to look out for if you’re one of these people who has “thought about” volunteering at some point.

1) Pick a country or volunteer organization.

– Most places desperate for volunteers are developing countries. Will you be willing to go there? Many of these countries are also cool places to visit. For instance, Africa, India, South America, the Pacific Islands, and China.

– There are many volunteer organizations that help people find their way to these countries to help. As I’ve only been to China to volunteer, I thought I’d pass on a list of places in China that people might like to check out for volunteer opportunities:

  • Olivia’s Place – volunteer and work. Contact Joanna Ren who is the coordinator. Even though they’re based in Shanghai (and Beijing), they do sometimes pro bono (PB) stuff outside Shanghai.
  • Go to China – volunteer only. I was very keen on going with them as well, but didn’t. They seem to have trips in various parts of China.
  • Love without Boundaries – has a healing home for children with cleft lip and palate. They sometimes look for SLPs to help.
  • Operation Smile – a worldwide organization that provides free cleft lip and palate repair surgeries. They have missions to China (and other parts of the world).
  • Private orphanages/healing homes – there are tons of them all around China. People who are interested could perhaps contact them directly to see if there are volunteer opportunities. However, if you have never volunteered before, I would recommend you go with someone who has, or do it as part of a volunteer organization or mission group. I’ll explain why later.

2) Get an idea of the population you might be working with and do some pre-departure continuing ed/reading!

  • Professional Skills: Even thought volunteers are going out of their own free will, and giving up time and money to help another out, I strongly believe that we still need to provide quality service. I knew that I was going to spend most of my time at a healing home for orphans with cleft lip and palate. However, my only experience with the cleft lip and palate population was through reading textbook case studies and watching videos…almost half a decade before when I was still in grad school. I knew I had to skill myself up a little bit more, and so contacted my local Children’s Hospital speech path department and they very kindly allowed me to observe a few clinical sessions involving patients with cleft lip and palate.
  • Environmental Differences: I had also never worked with orphans or been in an orphanage. Before leaving, I read up on orphanages and blogs of people’s experiences volunteering at these places to give me an idea of the environment I would be mostly in.
  • Linguistic Differences: Although I speak Mandarin, I haven’t had much opportunity to practice it in Australia (although I do see a client who speaks Mandarin). So, I spent time listening to Mandarin songs and tried to speak a lot more in Mandarin to my toddler son and my parents when we Skyped, to get my brain more attuned to the language again.
  • Cultural Differences: As I’m ethnically Chinese, and have been around enough mainland Chinese people, there weren’t too many cultural differences that I wasn’t already aware of. However, my husband, who is American and not Chinese (and had never been to China), well and truly experienced culture shock! If you’re going to a place to volunteer, it would certainly be helpful to talk to someone native to that country about their cultural practices (especially in health and disability). It would also be useful to reflect on your own prejudices about the country/people/culture there, as you need to know how to work with the locals there. I remember reading a great book as part of my bilingual SLP program in grad school, called “The spirit catches you and you fall down” about a little Hmong girl in the US whose parents/community were very resistant to western medicine; how cultural miscommunication occurred because of preconceived stereotypes of “the other.”

ASHA might also have CE courses about multicultural differences/linguistic differences. If anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear about them and include them here.
3) Do the financial sums. Get your travel documents and accommodation ready EARLY!

  • Also, check for visa requirements. US and Australian citizens need a visa to travel to China. I’m sure other countries will have similar requirements, so make sure you check carefully.
  • Yes, volunteering can be costly. For us it was. However, there may be ways you can raise funds to “sponsor” your trip. You might also like to start saving up for volunteer trips. It is financially costly, but the intangible rewards and experience will make it all worth it. You will also get a chance to visit a new city, how exciting! I will also add that in my case, I also felt that it was my calling and a “duty” I needed to fulfill.

4) Find out of the place(s) you are going to need donations:

  • Sometimes these places could use some of your old test materials or therapy toys/games. Ask your contact if this is necessary.

5) Go with an open mind and with someone experienced

  • You are the expert in your field, but not in the place, organization, or culture. I realized very quickly that I could not do “therapy” in the way I knew. The people I could train were also limited in their education levels and abilities. You really need to be resourceful, and figure out how to best use people and resources to deliver optimum results for the child’s speech and language goals (and overall well being). For example, there were a few key people who weren’t able to be there during my stay. Therefore, we had to be creative about how we could train them, and used digital media to record language sessions. It was fun! But also not what I had envisioned.
  • Having not volunteered before, it was really useful to have my co-volunteer, Angela with me. She has gone on several volunteer trips in different homes, and immediately knew what questions to ask the organization, such as: what strategies do you already have? What do you want us to help you with? What resources do you have? Who are the people in the organization and what are their roles?

You might think that most organizations would already have these answers but they might not. Healing Homes was not used to having SLPs visiting, and therefore needed guidance to figure out how they could best use us.

6) Set realistic expectations

  • Until you are actually there, on the ground, and really understand the barriers involved, you will probably never really know what you can do for the organization/children/people. Sometimes the hurdles can seem defeating. Luckily, I had lots of experience working with families from low Socioeconomic status (SES) and have found myself time and time again having to revisit my goals and set realistic expectations. During my volunteer experience, I found myself having to do something similar because of reasons like: lack of time, resources, cultural barriers.

7) Go with the mindset of spreading LOVE

  • You might think I’m spewing hippie nonsense here. And yes, maybe there’s a bit of that,…but I’m serious. Sure, there were goals that I wished we were able to attain during my stay there. But these children just yearn for so much affection and attention that nothing beat the look on the kids’ faces when I was just spending time playing with them, cuddling them and, simply, showing them love. ^__^
April 26, 2013 / the speech monster

My time as an SLP volunteer in China

It is about time I started writing about my time in China. Not that the memories are fading by any means, no, they won’t for a really, really long time; hopefully never. I want to write about China because I’d love to share about it, and hopefully inspire someone to do something similar, too!

Over the Easter break, I traveled with my husband and 16 month old son to Shanghai, China for 13 days to do volunteer work. Actually, my husband was the one who really pushed me to do this. He knew I had felt called to do this for awhile now, but because of finances and the fact that we have a little toddler, I kept putting it off. Thankfully, Shanghai was one of the places he had wanted to visit, so the trip was worthwhile for him, too. He also graciously sponsored the entire visit and looked after our son while I worked. What a gem!

I spent a little over a week at a healing home called Charity Dream Shanghai Healing Home. Orphans or abandoned children with cleft lip and palate (pre and post surgery) receive special care at this foster home. In addition to providing them with medical care and a loving, nurturing home environment, they also raise money for their operations. Many times, these children get matched with a forever family and leave the home at around 2 years old. The children who do not get adopted by around that age either get fostered locally or sent back to the orphanage that originally accepted them.

Children with cleft lip and palate are by default highly at risk for delayed speech and language skills. Throw in the fact that these kids are in an orphanage…and their starting point for speech and language development is even further behind. Despite the fact that the home was such a bright, happy place, with extremely nurturing and loving nannies “ayis” who were cuddly and affectionate with the children, many, if not most, of the children there had significantly delayed language skills.

Being strategically situated in Pudong, the eastern part of Shanghai, the home gets many volunteers – most of them expatriate trailing spouses – who spend time playing with the children.

Three days a week, some volunteers run a language program using songs, rhymes, books, and signs for the 1-2 year old kids.  As most of these volunteers are from western countries (mostly North America), the kids get input in English in addition to their native language, Mandarin.

I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that there were volunteers without speech and language backgrounds who recognized the need for such a program to help these children. I was even more impressed when the children were able to sign words like “shoe,” “dog,” “car.” So cute!

Together with my co-volunteer and unofficial mentor, Angela, M.S., CCC-SLP, our main role at this home was to develop this language program further, working alongside the volunteers who coordinate the program and the Director of the home. I was also tasked to see a few kids to do case studies on their speech and language abilities, to provide the volunteers with some direction on how to better help these children develop linguistically and cognitively.

By the end of my time there, Angela and I had a working document with specific goals for the language program. We also proposed a structured play-based program. We modeled a few sessions for the volunteers, which meant we were up there, signing songs, rhyming, signing, and having a lot of fun with the kids! I had gotten to work individually with two kids, and prepared case studies for the Director to share with her team.

Because I speak Mandarin, I was also able to do some incidental teaching to the ayis about how to best stimulate the children’s speech and language. I also got to incorporate some Mandarin rhymes and stories to include the ayis who sat with the children during the language time.

The experience in China was amazing, challenging, and eye-opening. Speaking to Angela, a Chinese-American from New York who moved to Shanghai to work, as well as a few other volunteers, I got firsthand experience of the SLP profession there. Like a lot of developing countries, there are few SLPs and even fewer who can speak the native language. Currently, there are1.3 billion people in China but only about 1000 SLPs.[1] Most locals cannot afford SLP services and the SLPs who work at therapy clinics service expatriate communities. Angela works for a pediatric therapy clinic called Olivia’s Place that strives to also provide services to those who need but can’t afford them. There is even a foundation set up by the clinic just for this purpose! I meant to see a couple cases with her but there was simply no time during this trip. Fingers crossed, it won’t be too long till my next visit to China.

If any speechies are inspired to go on an adventure to China to volunteer and/or work, regardless of whether you speak the language, there will be somewhere and someplace that would desperately need you and greatly benefit from what you can offer. I haven’t done much research on the adult population and the SLP needs there but with an aging population, I would imagine there to be a big need for rehab SLPs in hospitals and nursing facilities, too.

Did I also mention that the food there is incredibly delish and extremely affordable? 🙂


Angela and I with some of the super adorable children at the home



[1] Meyer, D. (2011, November 01). Speech-Language Pathology in China: Challenges and Opportunities. The ASHA Leader.


April 14, 2013 / the speech monster

App review: Colourful Semantics

In case you haven’t already heard, there is now a Colourful Semantics App (£27.49) available for download! It is released by London Speech Therapy…yes, the same people that generously put online free Colourful Semantics materials on their website.

For those unfamiliar with Colourful Semantics, it was developed based on research by Alison Bryan (1987), that colour coding different parts of sentences helped with language learning and development. Please visit my old post here that talks more about it in detail.

I have used Colourful Semantics many times with my clients, and was extremely excited when I was asked to give this app a try and review it!

The colourful app is instantly engaging. The clients I tried the app on were immediately drawn to the strong visuals. There is also an option to turn on the background music if you wish.


(Above) In the “setup” mode, you can select the tailor make the program depending on which level your client is at the moment, and then select the scene you wish as the stimulus.

photo (3)

(Above) You can also add your own scene from a photo or camera.

Each level comprises of four pictures from which the clients can choose to answer the question. Upon tapping “start” the targeted question is asked immediately by app.

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(Above) After the child correctly selects the answer, the voice over reads out the selection (e.g., “the boy”) and then gives a few seconds for the client to provide the answer. Finally, the voice over gives the answer in a complete sentence, and thereafter again leaves a few seconds for the client to provide the answer.

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There are two modes: learning mode and test mode. Data is collected if “test mode” is selected, which is great for tracking progress!


What I love about the app is the bright visuals and the real life scenes, and the ability to automatically collate data. But to me, the winning feature about the app is the ability to add background scenes from photos or a camera, allowing the clinician or parent to customize the activity according to the child’s interests and people/places/things/activities s/he is familiar with. I could see this working extremely well with children with autism who need more concrete, literal examples to learn.

What I’d love to see more:

As I got a “trial” version, the number of scenes I got was limited. I’m not entirely sure how many scenes are in the current sale version. However, I believe the developers are working on adding more built-in scenes. Hurray! I’d also love to have the option of controlling when the app gives the answer, and how long the app waits for the child to say the answer. As I was using it in therapy, I’d love to be able to just give the answer instead of sitting through the voice overs. Also, one of my clients found it challenging to wait for the next scene after he had already given the answer.

Although there are “set” colours in the non-digital, original version of Colourful Semantics, the developers made one tweak to one of the colours, changing the “where” from red to blue. I can see why they did that, as red and orange are both magenta based! However, as I’ve been using the paper version with my clients, where we had worked on red for “where,” there was a wee bit of confusion. If I had used it with clients that I had not introduced the paper version prior, it would not have been a problem.

***Just did a quick peek at the Colourful Semantics’ Facebook page, which mentioned that they will be including the following in their next updates:***

18 changes/additions in our next update including:
1. more pre-installed scenes
2. options to turn off music & 3. background
4. change the colours of each category
5. a ‘quick play’ function
6. save scores to measure progress
7. a much faster way to add a new scene

That’s heaps (totally trying to be Australian here)! AND it also included the things I had said I hoped to see! Do take time to check them out on iTunes (better yet, download the app) and on Facebook

Note: As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the app was provided to the reviewer to review. No other form of compensation was awarded. Comments in this post are entirely the reviewer’s.